So the original Ricky and Fred always expected Lucy and Ethel to have dinner on the table every night. Well not much has changed since the ‘50s except the responsibilities of a contemporary wife. As Lucy and I can both attest, our days are jammed packed and then some. Meal planning isn’t exactly top priority for most folks when a run through the drive-thru or grocery store salad bar will do most nights. As my and Fred’s family grew I knew we would not be able to eat out more than once a month simply for budget reasons.
Once the kids got out of eating pureed everything, I really had to start thinking about our meals. Also, I was trying to get healthier and drag the family along with me. Our meals would be these rushed or very late things that only some of us liked and it made for a very difficult dinner time with young kids. To top that off, we started adding extra-curricular activities……… dun, dun, duuuuunnnn!! Queue the scary music. That’s when this girl broke out all her cookbooks and started meal planning!
I started out small, planning two weeks at a time. Since I went grocery shopping every two weeks it only seemed appropriate. It also kept my shopping lists manageable. I kept the meal plan in an Excel spreadsheet saved by dates they were created for. (Note-Lucy does not Excel…she uses pen and paper. Props to Ethel for being the tech savvy one!) I began with our family favs; tacos, mac n cheese, pizza, etc. I know it seems basic and unhealthy, I’ll explain later. I then started to sprinkle in new items that I found anywhere and everywhere. Once I had about three months-worth of meal plans, I started planning for longer periods of time. Eventually we ended up with this menu board hanging in our kitchen that we update each month (see below)!
That’s right friends, a month and NO TAKE OUT! At least not on weeknights… I have upgraded our favs to healthier versions such as whole wheat tortilla shells, 95/5 lean ground beef bulked up with 1/4c prepared bulgur wheat,, low fat sour cream, etc. for our tacos, whole wheat pasta, skim milk and olive oil for our mac n cheese and we make our own dough (see post!), use part-skim mozzarella, turkey pepperoni plus any other ingredients for our pizza.
Once we are on the last few days of dinners and it’s getting close to a shopping day, I break out the meal slips and have each family member pick out their favorites over dinner. This allows us to brainstorm new ideas or change up some seasonal items all while enjoying a meal together. That’s what I call multi-tasking!
Some of my go-to recipe sources are:
Simple and Delicious Magazine by Taste of Home
Better Homes and Gardens: Vegetarian cookbook series